Two for the Seesaw

Based on the William Gibson play about a separated Omaha lawyer who comes to New York and falls for an earthy Bohemian dancer, TWO FOR THE SEESAW was a much smaller film than Wise's previous picture, WEST SIDE STORY; but it was also a New York story with location scenes filmed in
Mitchum and Maclaine

Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine

New York. In addition, it starred big names Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine.

To adapt the play to screen, Wise brought in Isabel Lennart, who he had enjoyed working with on THIS COULD BE THE NIGHT (1957). In the play, the two disparate characters were often seen side-by-side in their individual apartments. Wise and Lennart wanted to keep this effect onscreen:

"I shot the film in Panavision so that I would have enough width to show it in certain shots. I was hoping to recapture that special feeling they had on the stage."*

The result was a compelling drama, which was bolstered by an appropriate soundtrack by André Previn. And, as the film progressed, opposites Mitchum and MacLaine found their chemistry. Offscreen, the stars seemed to hit it off quite well too. At one point, Wise had to ask his crew not to crack up so much while the stars engaged in pranks and witty repartee.

PosterSynopsis Omaha lawyer Jerry Ryan arrives in Manhattan after the breakup of his marriage and the loss of his job. He is lonely and decides to go to a Greenwich Village party given by his friend Oscar. There, he meets Gittel Mosca, a dancer from the Bronx, and they begin an affair. Jerry's thoughts, however, are still in Omaha, and he is unable to give of himself. Though he gets a job with a prominent law firm and uses some of his money to set Gittel up with a little dance studio in an empty loft, she senses that he cannot forget his wife and becomes depressed. After attending a party with a friend, she quarrels with Jerry, and has to be taken to the hospital with a hemorrhaging ulcer. When she returns he devotedly takes care of her, but the time inevitably arrives when she examines their relationship and asks Jerry to marry her when he is free of his marital ties. She learns that his divorce has already become final, though he has been afraid to tell her. They realize that the affair must end, and Jerry decides to return to his wife. Gittel is alone in her apartment when Jerry phones to tell her he loves her, and to say goodby.

From the AFI Catalog of Feature Films

Wise Facts
  • Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft played the lead roles in the stage version.
  • Credits:155 min. Mirisch Pictures; Argyle Enterprises; Talbot Productions; Seven Arts Productions; Distributed by: United Artists;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: Walter Mirisch;  Screenplay by: Isobel Lennart;  Edited by: Marshall M. Borden;  Director of Photography (Panavision): Ted McCord;  Music by: André Previn;  Production Design by: Boris Leven;  Sound by: Lambert Day;  Costumes by: Irene Sharaff;  Make-up by: Frank Westmore;  Hair by: Alice Monte; 
    Bob Mitchum Cast  Robert Mitchum (Jerry Ryan), Shirley MacLaine (Gittel Mosca), Edmon Ryan (Taubman), Elisabeth Fraser (Sophie), Eddie Firestone (Oscar), and Billy Gray (Mr. Jacoby)

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    1.Robert Wise On His Films, p. 171

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